By OBINNA EZUGWU
An opinion poll of the electoral chances of the contending political parties for 2023 general last week shortly before the start of political campaigns has raised the stake and created a new talking points among the contenders.
The poll which surprisingly put the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, ahead of the race sparked angry and incredulous reactions from the other major parties, which dismissed the results in unprintable adjectives.
This came on the heel of the Nigerian Labour Congress’s (NLC), at a well attended retreat in Abuja, formal endorsed Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), for the 2023 general elections, which was another morale booster for the camp of the former governor of Anambra state, whose power bid continues to defy the odds, with other parties feeling nonplussed and agitated.
Speaking at the said retreat, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, promised to mobilise members and affiliates of the union across the 774 local government areas in Nigeria and mobilize 12 million votes to ensure victory for the Labour Party at the 2023 polls
Wabba noted that the Labour Party has a responsibility of uniting Nigerians, as no country in the world can prosper and work in unity if it is divided.
Reiterating the Union’s quest for a united Nigeria, as well as issues of structure for the Labour Party presidential candidate, Wabba said, “One issue that we must take very seriously is actually conscientising our members and also Nigerians because Nigeria is so much divided along many primordial interests and many interests that are self-centred that we need to address.
“No country in the world can prosper and work in unity if the country is so divided. So one of the responsibilities of the Labour Party is to unite Nigerians along a common goal of development and prosperity…
“It’s not that we don’t have, we have structures; human beings are the structures. It is just to activate the structures and put them to use. It’s just like a weapon in military circles. You service them when the need arises.
“So the need has arisen for all the structures of the political commission of both TUC and NLC to be activated in all the 774 local governments. Importantly, also the structures of all our affiliates, both TUC and NLC membership together is 12 million.”
Monday’s endorsement of Mr. Obi’s presidential bid, was a follow up to an earlier declaration of support for him by both the NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), both of which had on Tuesday, June 28, at the 10th anniversary lecture in honour of the labour veteran, late Conrade Pascal Bayau in Abuja, vowed to do everything within their power to ensure that the Labour Party presidential candidate emerges victorious in the elections.
Reacting to the latest endorsement of Obi by NLC in a statement at the weekend, Mr. Festus Keyamo, spokesperson for the Tinubu Campaign council, accused the labour union of double standards.
Keyamo challenged the NLC to disclose its current position on the issue of fuel subsidy for instance, since it has adopted Obi for the 2023 presidential election.
“We note that the leadership of the organized labour under the aegis of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Monday, September 13, 2022, at a national retreat of the Labour Party in Abuja, promised to mobilise its members across the 774 local government areas in Nigeria to ensure victory for Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, in next year’s presidential election,” Keyamo said.
“We also note that in several interviews he granted in the last few months and weeks, Peter Obi has vowed to totally remove subsidy on petrol if elected President.
“We also note NLC’s long-standing opposition to the total removal of fuel subsidy. Other left-leaning supporters of the Labour Party were also present at the event to cheer Peter Obi.
“Consequently, the following questions are urgently begging for answers by the leadership of the NLC:
“Before adopting Mr. Peter Obi as its candidate, did the leadership of the NLC have a discussion with him on the issue of removal of fuel subsidy?
“If they did have that discussion, did Peter Obi agree to back down on the issue of subsidy removal? Was that a basis for supporting him?
“If he did not back down on the issue, did organised Labour agree with him?
“If no such discussion is held, does it mean the leadership of the NLC now fully supports the removal of fuel subsidy?
“Or will that not be reckless of the NLC to adopt a candidate without thoroughly interrogating the candidate on his policies as they affect the Nigerian workers or the masses?
A fortnight ago, a group of Nigerian doctors and other health workers also declared support for Obi, promising to mobilise 25 million votes for him through free nationwide medical outreach programmes at the grassroots level under the aegis of Docs and Medics for Peter Obi.
Speaking during the presentation of working tools by three support groups to the Labour Party’s campaign council at the party’s headquarters in Abuja on Monday, the convener of Docs and Medics for Peter Obi, Dr. Uche Uzoukwu, explained how the group hopes to deliver the 25 million votes in 2023.
“Nurses, doctors and pharmacists are coming together under the name docs and medics for Peter Obi. Politics is a game of numbers and everyone is important. Therefore, 11,000 doctors, 27,000 medics have come together and have formed even state groups,” he had said.
“We are reaching out to the local governments and have moved down to the wards and leaders have been inaugurated. We are moving down to the polling units and have 500,000 to grow and encourage them to get in touch with 50 people as they attend to patients. With this, we can have 25 million votes.
“We want to deliver 25 million votes, by giving right to life and to be well, the votes can be gathered. Medical outreaches have been in place and is still being used. Community members at the outreaches are encouraged to vote Peter Obi with a promise that the exercise will continue once Labour Party wins,” he said.
Obi, 62, who was crowded out of the PDP, is inspiring a political revolution. Seen as a departure from the old order, and being relatively younger than his main opponents, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Bola Tinubu of the APC, both of whom are in their 70s, Obi has become the rallying point for millions of young Nigerians yearning for change.
Rallies for him, which have become a weekly event in various states of the federation, are often attended by thousands, even as the Labour Party continues to mobilize grassroots support across the country.
His opponents have tended to dismiss him as just a social media rave that would peter out in due course, but with each passing day, the movement gets stronger.
“Peter Obi is the only future we have now,” declared Nonso Egwuatu,” a business owner in Nsukka, Enugu State. “The 2023 election will determine whether the country will survive or not. If they rig Obi out, the anger of the youths will likely spill over, and the country will be worse for it.”
Enugu is one of the states where the PDP has reigned supreme since the return of democracy in 1999. Its hold on the state had never been threatened, not even by the APC, which became the ruling party in 2015.
However, a trip around the state by our correspondent last week revealed that there’s been a radical shift in loyalty from the main opposition party to Labour Party, with Obi being clearly the favourite to trounce Atiku in the state.
“Peter Obi is the person we know,” declared Chikwado Omeje, a youth leader in Edem, a community in Nsukka local government. “If PDP thinks that it would be business as usual, then they should get ready for what will hit them. Yes, we can vote other candidates in other positions, but in the presidential election, everyone will vote Peter Obi, that’s what we have agreed.”
Pro-Obi rallies in Enugu, the state capital, turn into carnivals, and evident from last week’s rallies in places like Taraba, Plateau, Niger, among other states, which also witnessed large turnout of people, suggest that support for the former Anambra governor is more widespread than his critics admit.
But in a country where crowds are easily mobilized, rallies are hardly a reliable way to gauge the popularity of candidates. However, what makes pro-Obi rallies slightly different is that participants are rarely, if at all, induced by money.
Indeed, Obi has continued to lead by wide margins in various polls conducted by independent bodies. One of such polls commissioned by Anap Foundation revealed last week that 21 per cent of the electorate are proposing to vote for Obi in 2023.
In a statement on Thursday, the Anap Foundation president and founder, Mr. Atedo Peterside, said the nationwide poll was conducted by NOI Polls Limited in early September 2022. The poll revealed that 32 per cent are undecided on their preferred candidate.
It added that 13 per cent each are proposing to vote for Tinubu, and Atiku who are both tied in second place, while Rabiu Kwankwaso, candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), was a distant fourth, with three per cent of voters proposing to vote for him.
“The gender split of undecided voters shows that 39 per cent of women are undecided versus 27 per cent of male voters,” the statement said. The poll also revealed that 15 per cent refused to reveal who they would vote for.
However, Tinubu came tops on the visibility of candidates, “When asked if respondents were aware of the various candidates vying for the presidency, data gathered showed that 99 per cent of the respondents were aware of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC; 98 per cent were aware of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, 95 per cent were aware of Mr. Peter Obi of LP, and 74 per cent were aware of Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso of the NNPP. All other candidates scored below 55 per cent in terms of name recognition,” Peterside stated.
The top five reasons why voters are more inclined to vote in the forthcoming elections, according to the poll, are; “The need to tackle insecurity (45 per cent), the Economy (20 per cent), Education (9 per cent), Unemployment (7 per cent) and Poverty alleviation (4 per cent).”
Obi also trounced Atiku, Tinubu and Kwankwaso in subsequent polls conducted by both the ICIR and Daily Trust Newspaper.
In the Daily Trust poll concluded on Friday, in which over 40,000 people responded, Obi had 73.3 percent of votes, followed by Tinubu with 11.6 percent, Atiku 9.7 percent and Kwankwaso 5.4 percent.
Similarly, the ICIR poll, which ended on Thursday, with over 30,000 respondents had Obi at 73.5 percent, Atiku 20.6 percent, Tinubu at 4.7 percent and Kwankwaso at 1.2 percent.
However, the trio of the APC, PDP and NNPP, last week, rejected the ANAP poll that placed Obi, ahead in the 2023 presidential race.
Reacting to the development in a statement, Bayo Onanuga, spokesperson of APC presidential campaign council, described the result as “dubious and unreliable statistics”.
Onanuga made reference to a previous poll conducted by NOI Polls prior to the 2015 presidential election, which had projected victory for Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP.
“Our objective profiling of NOI Polls as an anti-APC research organisation is grounded on the aforesaid facts and that is why we believe this present report is, in the language of Nigerians, ‘wuruwuru to the answer’,” he said.
“The NOI has chosen the preferred candidate and has decided to use fake, dubious statistics to package him to the Nigerian voters.
“We know, as a matter of fact, the owners of NOI and where their political interest lies and wish to advise NOI to stop polluting the political system with irresponsible, unscientific and biased polling so that we don’t expose the puppeteers pulling its strings.”
On his part, Ladipo Johnson, spokesperson of the NNPP presidential campaign council, queried “the sampling method used in arriving at the obviously unverifiable or concocted data”.
“I would take it with a pinch of salt. This is a known template. In this season, we should expect many more dubious sounding opinions, polls, etc.,” he said.
“The poll is, to say the least, bogus and an attempt to create the impression that the LP candidate has the potential to succeed, when in actual fact, the reality on ground is totally different.
“The NNPP insists that the complete process of the poll should be published. If not, the poll cannot be taken seriously.”
Speaking on Thursday in an interview on Channels Television, Daniel Bwala, spokesperson of the Atiku Abubakar presidential campaign, faulted the technique used for the poll.
“A normal poll that will attract credibility will be a poll that will clearly release the sample size and the margin of error as the report is being released, because the sample size and the margin of error will help in identifying whether the polling was actually carried out correctly or not,” he said.
“Then, you can further ask for the sampling. Was it done through a phone call? If it was done through a phone call, then the people who did not have phones were probably not part of the polling.
“You also go to the extent of demographics and the place where the polling was carried out. I know they said it was a random sampling. But then, because of the result, I’m tempted to believe that this polling was carried out online because Peter Obi has a number of people who are very active for him online much more than the other candidates.
“I will tell you why: There was an algorithm search and data analytics that was carried out that came up with the finding that 57.5 percent of people who follow Peter Obi and engage with him on social media do not live in Nigeria. In fact, majority of whom are bots on Twitter — they are not real human beings.
Meanwhile, Abayomi Arabambi, LP spokesperson, said the poll shows Nigerians are ready for a new order in governance.
“The opinion poll didn’t come to us as a surprise, because that exemplifies implicitly the yearning of Nigerians towards the presidential bid of Mr. Peter Obi/Datti Ahmed,” he said.
“It shows that Nigerians have come to terms with our reality that there has to be a change and a new order from the old, because it is very obvious they are languishing in abject poverty. There are no jobs for Nigerians. Schools are under lock and key due to executive rascality and malfeasance of the present administration.
“You are aware that there are certain regions where we scored low, but we are not going to complain about it. But it shows that those people complaining about that are already seeing the results of what is going to happen come February next year when we go to the polls.”